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In focus ... France

Published: Monday 19 December 2011, 11.42CET
Appearing at a sixth successive finals, France will be hoping to add to their victories in 1984 and 2000 after holding their nerve to keep Bosnia and Herzegovina at bay and win Group D.
In focus ... France
France coach Laurent Blanc lifted the trophy as a player in 2000 ©Getty Images
Published: Monday 19 December 2011, 11.42CET

In focus ... France

Appearing at a sixth successive finals, France will be hoping to add to their victories in 1984 and 2000 after holding their nerve to keep Bosnia and Herzegovina at bay and win Group D.

Best EURO performance: winners 1984, 2000
Coach: Laurent Blanc
Leading scorer: all-time – Thierry Henry (51); current – Karim Benzema (13)
Most appearances: all-time – Lilian Thuram (125); current – Florent Malouda (73)
Association formed: 1919
Nickname: Les Bleus (The Blues)

France's turn-of-the-century success, winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup before holding their collective nerve to secure their second UEFA European Championship two years later, has felt far removed of late. Les Bleus exited the 2002 and 2010 World Cups at the first hurdle and, either side of finishing runners-up at the 2006 World Cup, left only brief impressions at UEFA EURO 2004 and UEFA EURO 2008. Under Laurent Blanc past glories have not seemed quite so distant in qualifying – though they had the odd scare, not least in their final group game against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying
Group D: winners
Leading scorer: Yoann Gourcuff, Karim Benzema, Florent Malouda (3)
Ever-presents: Hugo Lloris (10)

The two-time champions needed a late Samir Nasri penalty to earn the 1-1 draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina in their concluding game that booked their finals place. Laurent Blanc's charges had nevertheless spent most of the qualifying campaign on top of Group D despite the shock of a 1-0 opening home defeat against Belarus; Les Bleus responded with three successive 2-0 victories.

Appointed in the wake of the disappointing 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign, Blanc's reign began with a friendly defeat in Norway and that Belarus reverse, but France then commenced a long unbeaten run, also chalking up friendly victories against England and Brazil. They are unbeaten in 17 matches, still some way short of the national record of 30 set in the 1990s.

The goalless draw in Romania in September 2011 was France's 100th UEFA European Championship qualifier – although it was slightly different to their first, a 7-1 defeat of Greece on 1 October 1958 – while the home game against Bosnia and Herzegovina represented their 750th fixture overall.

"It's a great satisfaction to be through to EURO," said Blanc. "From now on, we'll focus on our way of playing and give more time to players who've had few opportunities because we were playing in high-stakes games. But it would be interesting to see players who shine with their clubs in the national team."

EURO pedigree
France are in the finals for the sixth time in succession; they last missed out as holders in 1988, suffering an early end to the defence of the trophy they had lifted in Paris four years earlier with a final defeat of Spain.

Their second victory came at UEFA EURO 2000, Roger Lemerre's team becoming only the second team after West Germany (1972, 1974) to hold the world and European titles at the same time. It was a close-run thing, however, Zinédine Zidane's extra-time penalty settling a tense semi-final against Portugal before Sylvain Wiltord saved them from a final loss to Italy with a last-gasp equaliser, setting the scene for David Trezeguet's golden-goal winner.

Les Bleus have nevertheless not won a game in a final tournament in their last seven attempts. Before bowing out to Italy in Switzerland 2-0, they went down 4-1 to the Netherlands, their largest major finals loss since a 5-2 reverse against Brazil in the 1958 World Cup semi-final.

UEFA EURO 2012 Group D fixtures
Monday 11 June: France v England, 18.00CET, Donetsk
Friday 15 June: Ukraine v France, 18.00CET, Donetsk
Tuesday 19 June: Sweden v France, 20.45CET, Kyiv

Team EURO records
Matches played
Overall: P130 W73 D33 L24 F252 A119
Final tournament: P28 W14 D7 L7 F46 A34
Qualifying: P102 W59 D26 L17 F206 A85

Click here for extensive list of records

Last updated 19 December 2011

Last updated: 19/12/11 17.19CET

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